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Analysis of Holt's HR811 Flaws

Analysis of Holt's HR811 Flaws
National Election Data Archive

Holt's New HR811 is a big improvement over his former HR550 because it takes the audit away from the US EAC and goes about as far as possible in federal legislation to eliminate DRE voting machines, but it still has a few critical flaws that need to be fixed. Here is my personal opinion after reading HR811 and then reading it again after reading some of the comments of other election activists.

Critical changes are needed to Holt HR811

1. Section 327 is a LOOPHOLE ALLOWING MANUAL AUDITS TO BE BYPASSED. HR811 permits states to avoid any manual audits when conducting state "recounts". Many state "recounts" involve no manual counts of voter-verified paper ballots, or involve fewer manual counts than HR811 requires or, like Utah, involve limited manual counts but never compare the manual counts with the electronic tallies used to count votes on the central tabulator. This exemption permits states to avoid independent audits altogether by redefining when they'll do "recounts". Independent audits should "always" be required, no matter whether election officials do "recounts" or not.

2. NO RECOGNITION OF CITIZEN RIGHT TO OVERSIGHT. HR811 provisions do not require timely citizen or candidate access to election records necessary to verify electoral integrity, voter roll accuracy, or manual audits. Some states, like Utah, prohibit access to all election records, even records that the National Voting Rights Act requires to be publicly available; and other states only release election records long after election results are made official. Candidates have nothing to judge the integrity of their election outcomes with, when access to election records is lacking.

3. EQUIPMENT REQUIREMENTS ARE UNDER-FUNDED: $300 million is not enough to fund the purchase of precinct-based op-scan machines and ballot printers for voters with disabilities and non-English-language voters, for all precincts who currently have voting machines which lack paper ballots. (although the amount may be enough to purchase new machines for jurisdictions with paperless DREs like MD, GA, FL,..) If there are approximately 185,000 U.S. polling places, and even if only approximately one-third of them are defined as remedial and it costs $10,000 per polling location for a ballot printer and op-scan device, then it would cost approximately $650 million to replace all the electronic ballot voting systems which currently do not cast votes on archival quality paper ballots, are not fully auditable, and violate voter anonymity. It also seems to require text conversion technology in every polling place for voters with disabilities to independently verify their ballots. At up to $7000 per machine for 185,000 polling places, you do the math.

4. INSUFFICIENT AUDIT AMOUNTS: Fans of audit solutions recognize that Holt's audit amounts (10% audits for races with margins under 1%, 5% audits for races with margins between 1% and less than 2%, and 3% audits for races with margins 2% or greater) are inadequate. These numbers were pulled out of thin air, often giving under 50% chance for detecting even one vote corrupt vote count (count with error) in cases where just enough vote counts are corrupt to alter outcomes in U.S. House races. (I would need to know the number of precincts in all US House districts to do a thorough mathematical analysis of this.)

5. UNDER-QUALIFIED COMPOSITION OF STATE AUDIT BOARDS: HR811 proposes a composition for state audit board members that does not allow much-needed mathematicians, computer scientists, election activists, and gaming experts to be on the election audit boards, and does not allow smaller party members of the Green, Libertarian, Constitution, or other small parties to be on the state audit boards. The mathematics of election audits is quite different than in other industries and can be quite complex due to the variations in the margins between candidates, size variation in the numbers of ballots in each vote count, and other factors.

6. EXCEPTION ALLOWS LOSS OF SECRET SECURE BALLOTS for the Military voters, who are "allowed" to vote via email.

7. LOOPHOLE ALLOWS MACHINE COUNTS TO SUPERCEDE VOTER VERIFIED PAPER when fuzzily described circumstances arise. Legislation should instead say that: "In the event of any inconsistencies or irregularities between any electronic records and the voter-verifiable paper records, the paper records shall be the true and correct record of the votes cast, except in the case where evidence exists that indicates that the paper record has been tampered with or damaged, in which case, if an outcome is in question, then a court will decide."

8. LOOPHOLE ALLOWS INTERNET CONNECTIONS for central tabulators and ballot definition software. This is unnecessary since portable media can be used to transfer vote counts from the central tabulator or to the ballot programming devices.

9. NEGLECTS TO OUTLAW ELECTRONIC POLL BOOKS. Having paper ballots for voters in case of power failure or electronic failure does little good if there are electronic poll books. Voters can be disenfranchised, and have been disenfranchised in both MD and CO due to the use of electronic poll books.

10. LOOPHOLE ALLOWS MANUAL AUDITS TO BE GAMED: Vote miscounts could be hidden and have a higher chance to escape detection in two or more large-size counts of absentee, mail-in, overseas, or military ballots. Must change "and" to "or" in Holt's language, or simply require that all mail-in ballots are to be counted in batches of the same size as a median-sized precinct.

To read it for yourself, go to and select "bill" and type in HR811

It has many good points too.

P.S. This letter to Congress is in its final form. Please send copies to your own representatives by fax would be best.

Best Regards,

-- ---- Kathy Dopp National Election Data Archive Dedicated to Accurately Counting Elections

© Scoop Media

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